I recently interviewed a new client whose last job was with a commercial bakery. He only worked there for about three months. It was the first time in his life that he had worked in baking. He made croissants. I expressed surprise because I thought that making croissants required great skill. His response was basically, "No, they have a machine that makes the croissants. All I had to do was to put the dough in the machine." He's right. Croissant-making machines do exist. The Croissmat SCM is pictured to the left. It churns out croissants at nine meters a minute. That has to be a lot of croissants.
Once I thought about it, the existence of croissant making machines fits in with my lifetime experience with croissants. They used to be hard to come by but when you got one it was a flaky, buttery delight. That was when croissants were made by artisans. Now you can buy croissants in bags of six at your local supermarket or get your chicken salad sandwich on a croissant in a restaurant but those croissants are but a pale reflection of the artisanal croissants of old.
There is a more direct Social Security connection to this story. Social Security is relying upon the decades old Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) for vocational information in making disability determinations even though everyone acknowledges that it is ridiculously out of date. I strongly doubt that croissant-making machines existed at the time the DOT was created. Machinery has dramatically decreased the level of skill required to make croissants at the price of decreasing the quality of the product but in many, perhaps most, other cases, machinery has had the opposite effect of increasing the level of training required of employees while improving the quality of products produced. However, no one has a good handle on what the end result is for the number of jobs available for those at the lower end of the cognitive scale. People are being approved and denied for disability benefits based upon data that everyone knows is unreliable. We need a credible replacement for the DOT and we need it now. The replacement for the DOT has to deal honestly with the cognitive requirements of employment. My opinion is that Social Security is not doing right by people at the lower end of the cognitive scale. Social Security is acting as if there was no question about the existence of jobs in a wide range of exertional levels that can be performed by people who test out with an I.Q. between 60 and 80. I doubt it. Maybe a bakery could have a new employee operating that croissant making machine pictured above but could you trust an employee with an I.Q. of 65 to make nine meters of croissants a minute? Maybe, maybe not.